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Sabian Vault Artisan Ride Cymbals

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Sabian’s Vault line of cymbals was developed during one of its cymbal-making demonstration tours, where the company visits drum shops, brings in hammering and lathing machinery and manufactures cymbals on the spot. It’s fascinating to watch, but more than that, it allows attendees to have cymbals custom made to their specifications. The most interesting, musical and popular models from this tour were used to create Sabian’s Vault cymbal line. New to this line are five Artisan ride cymbals that are reminiscent of the best classic jazz rides. Sabian describes these as “Super-Premium” traditional cymbals. My wallet didn’t like the sound of that, but my ears definitely did. (The 20-inch rides list for $600; the 22s for $700.) These limited-availability cymbals ran the gamut from polite and refined to explosive and a bit trashy.

Sabian sent me light and medium 20- and 22-inch rides for the review. I tried the 20-inch light ride first, though initially I thought it might be the medium ride based on its weight and thickness. But its deep pitch and mysterious harmonics immediately gave it away. This cymbal was the rudest of the bunch. It has a complex, dark wash with some almost oriental overtones, like some of the cymbals from Sabian’s Hand Hammered line. The surface of the cymbal reveals ripples from the hammering process, and it feels a bit like a car hood after a nasty hailstorm. Light shoulder crashes revealed a little clang along with the crash, but it was rich and deep. When crashed strongly, the cymbal responds quickly and sounds a little harsh, though not unmusical. Brushes and dowel rod bundles yielded good results when riding, too, though obviously with less overtone buildup. Its bell isn’t terribly “bell-like,” having lots of unusual overtones, but it has an interesting sound of its own. I found that larger sticks worked better for playing Latin cascara patterns on this bell. Overall, this cymbal is very musical, but it’s also explosive and wild. With its wash and overtones, it would probably make a great secondary crash/ride.

The medium-weight 20-inch ride is much more of all-purpose cymbal than the light ride. The overtones and wash always stayed in check, and the cymbal had good stick definition. This cymbal projects better, too. It might be more vanilla than the light ride, but I liked it a lot. I found this ride too thick to really crash, but stick-shoulder pokes made it complain ever so nicely. The bell on this cymbal is pretty clear, and it’s loud enough to cut through moderately loud music. It is a safer choice overall, since the unpredictability of the 20-inch light makes it harder to control.

Sharing a similar tonality to the 20-inch version, th 22-inch light ride has more controlled overtones, with even better stick definition. Light sticks (Vic Firth AJ2) brought out more overtones and wash, and slightly heavier sticks (Vic Firth AJ5) brought out more of its fundamental tone and definition. Unfortunately, the best bell sound I was able to obtain was near the cymbal stand’s wing screw, somewhat complicating matters. I chose to play the cymbal without the wing screw, and since I kept the volume in check, I was in no danger of having the cymbal rock its way off the stand onto the floor. It is a slightly more polite cymbal, and it’s certainly easier to control than the 20-inch, but it still has those dark hand-hammered overtones I love. If you like the smaller cymbal but think it might be too hard to control, this 22-inch model will be perfect for you.

The Brilliant version of the 22-inch light ride shared a lot in common with its duller sibling. The Brilliant was a bit wetter with a slightly higher pitch, and it shares a similar bell sound, but it wasn’t quite as dark as the other one. Either is a great cymbal to ride on. Both cymbals offer very controllable wash and pretty good stick definition. Since the pitch is low, they’re ideal for recording and smaller-group or lower-volume gigs. Either one would work in place of the other, the principle difference being the slightly darker and drier sound of a traditionally finished ride. There are drummers that have a bias against the appearance of Brilliant cymbals, which is a pity since that finishing process can have a positive effect on a cymbal’s tone. If you like the other model but find it just a touch too dark or dry, this is the cymbal for you.

The 22-inch medium ride was another good dish. The first thing I noticed about this cymbal was how lively my sticks felt when playing it. This cymbal has enough weight and body to make your uptempo ride patterns pretty effortless. With a higher pitch than the light version, and clearer stick definition, it’s a good all-around ride that can cut through a bigger and louder ensemble. The spread was adequate without ever seeming stifled. This cymbal has the dynamic range to work well in intimate settings or on louder gigs.

The good news is that all these cymbals sounded like they came from the same family of instruments rather than separate and distinctly different models. These cymbals will be produced in small numbers each year, and as a result they come at a premium price. If you want a dark trashy cymbal, or a polite refined one, all with a traditional sound, Sabian has just the cymbal for you.

Originally Published